Simphiwe Buthelezi – Simza beats Super GM Levon Aronian in Joubert Park and saves the day – Part 1

Super Chess Grandmaster Levon Aronian and Simphiwe Buthelezi (SIMZA)

As has become customary for any Grandmaster who officially opens the South African Junior Chess Championships (SAJCC), they have to make the trip to Joubert Park to face the players and the hustlers in Blitz. This year it was Super Chess Grandmaster Levon Aronian’s turn after he officially opened the SAJCC tournament on Saturday.

The GM had accounted for everyone in the park and he was playing with odds of 50 seconds or 1 minute against 3 minutes. It was even reduced to 35 seconds when he was playing the ladies. He beat every single person he played in the park except one man, Simphiwe Buthelezi also known online as Simza.

I have never seen an untitled individual in chess play so confidently and be so composed against a Super Grandmaster. The way Simphiwe Buthelezi beat Grandmaster Levon Aronian at Joubert Park on a warm Sunday afternoon was just unreal. Where did this young man get his confidence and composure?

During the course of the game my focus was on recording the game I had not been analysing it. However I did pay attention to the body language of the players during the game. There was a shift in the GM’s body language as the game progressed.

I did notice it was the one game where GM Aronian seemed a bit ruffled. At some point he touched his Knight on the light e7 square and seemed to regret it because the only decent square for the piece seemed to be back on the first rank on the light c8 square, next to the initial starting b8 square.

In a number of games the GM had been drumming a beat on the table, enjoying the loud music in the background and this game was no exception as he checkmated and dispatched one opponent after another. However, one could tell that at some point in the game against Simphiwe that things had taken a serious turn.

In many of the games whether GM Aronian had white or black he would quickly assume the initiative and dictate play. This put massive pressure on many players in the park. It did not matter that the GM had 1 minute on the clock versus their 3 minutes. Sooner or later he would catch up on the clock or checkmate before that happened.

When Simphiwe stepped up to play the grandmaster, everyone else had already played the grandmaster and he might not even have played at all because some players were insisting on having a second chance against the grandmaster.

Our best hopes had been crushed. After International Master (IM) Johannes Mabusela’s win against Super Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, some believed that he could repeat his feat of upsetting of Super GM in the park but these hopes were misplaced. It was not to be. Tendai Mubayiwa, who in the previous year had gotten away with an illegal move against Super GM Wesley So also tried his luck against GM Aronian and felt.

Whether it was through check mate, losing on time or making illegal moves, no one else No one seemed up to the task of drawing Against the GM in the park let alone beating the grandmaster but there was still one player to facing. Simza calmly helped to set up the pieces before he stepped into the lions den to face the Super Chess grandmaster.

Even after the game when I interviewed Simza he was quite casual about it. He did not seem too excited. It seemed like just another day for him. Simza said in his game against the GM they had played an opening he was familiar with, the English Opening and he had essayed the Botvnnik Variation. The characteristic moves of the Botvinnik Variation include the Fianchetto and placing of white’s King Bishop on the g2 square and a central e4 push by white in the Centre.

Did Simza really understand what he had just done? I was recording the whole thing and could not believe what I had just witnessed. The spectators went wild after the game.

It was the only game I saw the GM make a blunder and appear a bit flustered the whole time in the park. Everyone else had tried and failed in Joubert Park and all hope seemed lost.

But the great Simphiwe Buthelezi, (@SIMZA19 Lichess handle) saved the day! What a huge relief it was for everyone. Grandmaster Levon Aronian had mowed down the opposition and not even come close to losing in other games. Yes this unassuming young man, Simphiwe Buthelezi, Simza had done what few thought was still possible on Sunday, beating Super Chess Grandmaster Levon Aronian in Joubert Park.

Enjoy the game!

Grandmaster Levon Aronian with a hat given to him as a gift by Simphiwe Buthelezi
Simphiwe Buthelezi (SIMZA) against Grandmaster Levon Aronian in Joubert Park
Simphiwe Buthelezi (3 minutes) vs Grandmaster Levon Aronian (1 minute)

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